Have Chelsea glued together or will Arsenal take them down?
If there was any doubt about how poorly Chelsea had performed over the past year, their victory at Burnley marked the first time in 19 months that they entered a mid-season international break with a win. Chelsea supporters were able to savor the luxury of believing their team had finally turned a corner, but the question remains: are these recent results indicative of the club’s resurgence, or are they merely the outcome of favorable fixtures? Furthermore, there’s a looming challenge on the horizon when Arsenal visits Stamford Bridge on Saturday.
Mauricio Pochettino’s impact on Chelsea has been noticeable to anyone closely following the team this season. Despite just two wins in their first seven games, Pochettino’s Chelsea plays a more attractive style of football compared to previous managers Graham Potter and Frank Lampard.
Last season, Chelsea’s underlying statistics suggested they were a mid-table team, but under Pochettino’s leadership, there have been significant improvements. They now rank seventh for expected goals in the Premier League, a notable jump from their 12th position last season. Defensively, they are fourth for expected goals conceded, up from 11th in the previous campaign. Additionally, Chelsea has moved from seventh to second in terms of possessions won in the attacking third per match, highlighting their improved ability to press the opposition.
However, there’s a persistent issue Pochettino needs to address: Chelsea’s continued struggle to convert opportunities into goals, just as Graham Potter’s team did. Last season, Chelsea had the worst expected goals differential in the Premier League, consistently underperforming in front of the goal. This issue still plagues them, with only Everton’s forwards performing worse in this metric this season.
Pochettino hopes that the recent win against Burnley signifies a turning point. One of the players who embodies the changes Pochettino has brought is Enzo Fernandez, the midfielder who played a crucial role in Argentina’s World Cup victory and has now become essential to Chelsea’s setup.
The shift towards younger talent under the leadership of Todd Boehly and Behdad Eghbali is evident, with Raheem Sterling emerging as a key player at the age of 28. In his second season at Stamford Bridge, Sterling is thriving in his preferred role on the wing, leading the team in goals and successful take-ons per 90 in the Premier League. He is also outperforming his expected goals (xG) total.
Chelsea’s progress under Pochettino is impressive, but it’s essential to remember that it’s still a relatively small sample size with just eight games played. Chelsea’s fixture list has been relatively easy so far this season, and they are currently in the bottom half of the table. The true test of their resurgence will come during a challenging run of matches against Arsenal, Tottenham, Manchester City, Newcastle, and Manchester United, all of which Opta ranks as the fourth-toughest during that period. Arsenal, in particular, poses a significant challenge, having won their last three visits to Stamford Bridge, and they will be the first test to determine the seriousness of Chelsea’s resurgence.
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